I went over to James’s house unannounced. He opened his bedroom door, his hair all bent and flat from sleeping.

“What are you doing here?” he asked me.

“Do you want to get dinner?” I asked him.

He let the door fall wide and turned away from me.

“I already had dinner,” he said, and sat down at his desk, “I’m working.”

“What are you working on?” I asked, and followed him into the room, crouched behind him at his desk to look.

He sighed.

“See you later, Eve,” he said.

“Oh,” I said. I stood up.

“Okay,” I said, “See you later.”

I went out and sat in the thick grass of the vacant lot across the street. I sat there for a long time, and then I got up and walked towards my house.

Halfway there, in front of the Harris Teeter, someone called my name. I turned. A young man was waving at me. I wasn’t sure whether I recognized him or not.

“I know you from Graham Street,” he said, “I’m Allen.”

Graham Street was where James lived. Allen’s clothes were clean and unwrinkled. He had a neat haircut. He said he’d seen me around. He said he thought I looked interesting. He said he wanted to talk to me.

I sat down on the bench beside him.

Allen had a motorbike. He wanted me to get on it with him. He wanted to take me to get ice cream at the dairy farm outside town.

“Alright,” I said.

Allen strapped his helmet on my head and I put my hands on his shoulders. The wind was cold on my bare arms, in my hair. The drive was longer than I remembered, down thin empty roads and it was evening, the trees on either side tall and dark.

At the dairy farm Allen bought strawberries, cream, two ice cream cones. We went into a field and lay on our backs in the deep grass.

“Are those clouds, or mountains?” Allen asked me, pointing at some blue shapes on the horizon.

I thought about all the things that could happen.

“What are you going to be doing, a year from now?” Allen asked me.

I crossed my arms behind my head.

“I want to move to New York City,” I said.

“Why?” he said, “So dirty.”

“I like all the people,” I said.

“Won’t you miss the landscape?” Allen said, and waved at the fields, the woods, the wide sky.

I breathed deep, a little pinching chill in my lungs, the sweet wet grass.

“Yes,” I said, “I’ll miss the landscape. I’ll miss the kudzu.”

Kudzu is a thick green vine, not native to North America. It has leaves like an animal’s soft ears and grows wild over North Carolina, over houses, trees and forests, farms. It is unstoppable. It is suffocating. It is so alive.

“Kudzu!” Allen said, “Kudzu is a killer. Kudzu is a plague.”

“I know,” I said, “That’s what I like about it.”

Allen drove me back to town on his motorbike. It was dark and he took me to his apartment, which was clean and pleasant. He sliced the strawberries he’d bought, poured the slow white cream over them. He handed me a bowl and I ate the berries with a spoon.

“These are delicious,” I said, “Thank you.”

“Have some more,” Allen said.

“No, thanks,” I said, “I should go.”

I left his apartment and walked home by myself.

I was in a writing class with James at that time, working on a story that I was not very proud of. When my class discussed it, one boy said of my female protagonist, “That girl is going to get raped.”

We strangle ourselves when there’s nowhere to go.

Photo by NatalieMaynor

Kate Wheeler
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